Kimber America Stainless LW 1911, by Pat Cascio

Long-time SurvivalBlog readers will know that I’m a sucker for a well-made 1911 – in any configuration. However, my thinking has changed over the years. And, with the current climate all around the world, meaning political, and of course, the many wars taking place. I wouldn’t pick any 1911 as my one and only handgun for an End Of The World situation. As I’ve mentioned before, I’d go with a handgun with a larger magazine. Still, I love the 1911, and have carried one on and off duty in law enforcement, and as a civilian. Even to this day, I’ll strap on some kind of 1911 for a day or two – just because!

I remember when the first Kimber guns came on the scene, and they had everything most savvy 1911 owners wanted, and at a price point, that was only slightly more than a bone stock basic entry-level 1911 was selling for. So they were an instant success! I had one minor complaint at that time, and it was the cheap black rubber grips that came on a factory “custom” 1911 – and most owners immediately swapped out those cheap rubber grips, for some nice wooden grips.

The only complaint I still have with a Kimber is about one of the Metal Injection Molded (MIM )parts: the thumb safety! I had more than a few of these safeties snap off when taking it off “safe” to fire the gun – and you could see the “defect” in the safety – some small voids left behind in the molding process. I believe Kimber would do better, to make the extended combat safety lever, be molded a little farther back on the part – relieving the stress level on the thumb safety – just my take on it. I used to swap out the slide stop lever on most 1911s, with a forged one – just to be sure, it wouldn’t snap-off – I don’t do that any longer because I haven’t had a MIM or cast slide stop lever fail me.

MIM affords some great small parts at a big savings to the consumer, and they are often ready to install on a 1911 without much, if any fitting. If you know anything about firearms, you know that, when it comes to a 1911, many parts can’t just be dropped-in – they have to be hand-fitted. Over the years, when I was doing gunsmithing, I had more than a few customers bring me a 1911, that they had installed a part into it – and it wouldn’t function – they had no idea how to fit a part – they just assumed that all parts dropped in.

These days, I can usually be caught carrying some sort of compart 9mm handgun for my daily carry needs. I don’t feel the need for anything more, now that I’m just another private citizen, semi-retired, and live in the boonies. So my threat level isn’t what it used to be. Still, I usually have a compact or sub-compact 9mm that holds a lot of rounds. I have all the faith in the world with a .45 ACP round when it comes to stopping a threat. However, you are limited on the number of rounds in the single-column magazine of a 1911. The 9mm with good JHP or specialty rounds, will get the job done, in my humble opinion. Still, if I were going into a hostage rescue situation or similar high-threat event, I’d grab a 1911 – I have all the faith in the world in a 1911 and the .45 ACP round.

One of the newest 1911s from Kimber is their Stainless LW – the pistol under review in this article. The title is a little misleading, because the frame is manufactured out of lightweight aluminum, but the slide is made out of stainless steel. And, this gun is available in 9mm or .45 ACP – that is, if you can find one – they are made in limited production runs and they won’t be available for sale all the time.

The Stainless LW I have is the full-sized Government model, with a 5-inch barrel. I would have preferred a Commander slide/barrel length, at 4.25-inches, but you get what you get. The gun only weighs slightly over 31-ounces, so it is about half a pound lighter in weight than an all stainless steel model – believe me, the lighter gun carries better and I can shoot better with it. The barrel is match-grade/fitted and the slide has angled serrations on both the front end and the rear (sides) of the slide.

The barrel bushing is match-grade as well. The sights – ah, a great improvement over the basic Kimber 1911. The front has a red fiber optic sight, and the rear has two white dots, as opposed to the all-black rear sight. We have a full-length recoil spring/guide – and I could do without it – easy enough to swap out if you want to, and it doesn’t need to be “fitted” to the gun – it is a drop-in affair. The slide has a nice subdued brushed look to it – I like it!

Some More Specifications

The frame, as already mentioned in made out of forged lightweight Aluminum, and it anodized in a silver color – not quite matching the slide. I couldn’t find any flaws in the Aluminum frame at all – very nicely finished – inside and out. The hammer is an oval shape extended combat type. The beavertail grip safety – it doesn’t have the “hump” on it – like many do – instead, it is build-up on the bottom of it, to ensure a sure grip when you are depressing it when you fire the gun. The mainspring housing is checkered and made out of plastic. To be sure, when 1911 makers started using plastic instead of steel of a mainspring housings, I wasn’t sure they would hold up. Thusfar, I’ve never had one fail me. The magazine well is slightly beveled for a sure reload. The magazine release is slightly extended – very nice! The trigger is three-hole Aluminum match style and it was set dead on at 4.5 pounds – with just a hint of take-up as your press it – excellent job by Kimber.

The Cocobolo wood grips are beautiful – half checkered and half smooth. However, I swapped them out for a pair of “Code Zero” 1911 grips (of my own design) that are made by Mil-Tac because I love the way they grip you back in any weather situations. I also added some skateboard tape to the front strap on the frame – again, this grips you back, without being too abrasive. The front strap is smooth. I wish it came checkered, but given the price point this gun is selling for, it would bump the price up if it were checkered.

The gun comes with one 8-round magazine, with the Kimber name stamped on the bottom – very nice mags, to be sure. And, you can find just about any kind of 1911 mag you want, to add to your 1911 guns. Now, a word on the slide/frame/barrel fit – it is impeccable. There was not a hint of movement between the three parts – this is a sign of good fitting on those parts. To be truthful, I’ve owned a couple high-price 1911s, from custom makers, that weren’t fitted as well as this gun was. I feared though, that because it was so tightly fitted, I would have functioning problems. I only carried this gun for a couple days, and it was in a Blackhawk Serpa hip holster, the gun rode nice and high and tight to my hip. I strongly prefer that. If I were out hiking the logging roads, I’d elect to carry this 1911 in the Serpa tactical thigh holster.

My Test Drive

After taking the Kimber apart, and inspecting it – plus lubing it – I took it out for a test run. I had .45 ACP ammo kindly provided by Black Hills Ammunition – to include their 230-gr FMJ, 185-gr Barnes Tac-XP +P, 200-gr lead semi-wadcutter, 230-gr JHP +P and their 135-gr HoneyBadger loads. With today’s ammo drought — that I expect may well last for years — I don’t shoot as many rounds in my gun tests as I used to. I fired slightly less than 250 rounds in my testing. The Kimber ate everything I fed it – with only two failures to fully chamber the 200-gr lead semi-wadcutter rounds – it only took a slight nudge on the rear of the slide to get those two rounds to fully chamber. These are soft lead bullets, and I’ve had many 1911s that wouldn’t feed or chamber these rounds at all. Kimber recommends a long break-in period, before you can trust the gun for function 100% of the time. And, these lead loads were used early on, but after those two problems, it fed everything 100% of the time. So I can’t fault either the gun or the ammunition.

The Black Hills 230-gr JHP +P load – you knew you had something powerful in this gun – it let you know with the recoil impulse. Everything I shot during my accuracy portion of the shooting, was shooting right around 2-inch groups at 25 yards, if I did my part – resting the gun on a rolled-up sleeping bag. A few groups were slightly over 2-inches – but not by much. The 200-gr lead semi-wadcutter loads, were grouping under 2-inches. And, I know that this gun is capable of shooting groups around 1.5-inches, once I get some more trigger time behind the gun. I was totally impressed with the accuracy, of this factory 1911. Then again, I shouldn’t have been – as tightly fit as the barrel/slide/frame were, I knew it would be a great shooter. I don’t think I’ve had any 1911 ever that was this tightly-fitted, and it showed in the accuracy portion of my testing.

Now, for the bad news, as I mentioned early on, this is a limited run of these guns. I purchased at a small box store, and the price tag said it was already “discontinued” – and the full retail price is only $720. But I got it for $625. I’m confident that if you search around, you can still find one. I wish Kimber made this a regular production run. Honestly, for a gun of this quality, I would have expected to pay a couple hundred dollars more than I did. If you’re in the market for a new 1911, then check one out…  …if you can find it!

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